Air Force Global Strike Command selected for $18 million research allocation

  • Published
  • By Maj. Lauren Linscott
  • Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

Air Force Global Strike Command is the first major command selected for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Specific Topic under AFWERX with four approved solicitations and two pending applications.

AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory, brings cutting-edge American ingenuity from small businesses and start-ups to address the most pressing challenges of the DAF.

The Specific Topics designation allows military end-users to define narrow operations or equipment problem sets that require special attention. Commercial companies can then propose solutions, and— if selected for funding— begin technology development, testing, and integration efforts.

The AFWERX office allocated up to $18 million for AFGSC across the four solicitations and could add another $7 million if the two pending applications are selected. This allows Strikers the unique opportunity to work directly with potential vendors on the most effective means to modernize legacy systems and integrate new innovative capabilities that meet command priorities.

Since taking command of AFGSC, General Thomas A. Bussiere has stressed the need for improvement in present weapons systems while concurrently building the next generation of bombers and ICBMs. “I used to say our last B-52 pilot hasn't been born yet...It might now be our last B-52 father or grandfather hasn't been born yet,” stated Bussiere in his keynote speech at the AFA Warfare Symposium in Aurora, Colorado, in March 2023. “We're going to fly that weapon system to the 2050s... but we're going to put new motors, new radar, new avionics, and new weapons on that aircraft...We don't have any option other than to modernize.”

To help meet modernization objectives, AFGSC created the A5N Division, which seeks new pathways to meet warfighter needs. They scout solutions from small commercial businesses since technology development proposals are on average faster and more cost-effective compared to those from the current majority Defense Prime Contractors. The A5N division, better known as the Commercial Capabilities Integration Transition Division, in coordination with BRF, an economic development organization based in Shreveport, established the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP). These entities along with the Small Business Consulting Corporation (SBCC) honed in on the Specific Topics opportunities to increase their reach.

Now critical areas of innovation can be addressed in months compared to the multi-year procurement process that includes building requirement definitions and laying out contract parameters before any manufacturing or design can begin. The first four AFGSC solicitations focus on B-52 pylon modification, advanced battery development and integration for airborne platforms, electromagnetic pulse hardening, and readiness spares package deployment improvements.

“Global Strike has proven their mission needs in the innovation space, and we must look at all means, to include high caliber small businesses, to accelerate procuring the right capabilities for the warfighter,” explained CCIT division deputy chief Nate Dawn. “That’s the beauty of leveraging the Specific Topic process. We can actually talk to companies doing research and development, find funding through these AFWERX SBIR grants, and then shape product attributes to Striker needs.”

In addition to their efforts in the AFWERX proposal space, CCIT is recruiting cutting edge companies through their annual showcase events and continual tech scouting. The BRF, EAP, and SBCC teams have been instrumental in their support of these activities. Over the past 30 months, the CCIT brought 45 new technologies and over $100 million in contracts to AFGSC and is already moving 10 companies to transition.

“We’ve seen a significant improvement in outreach and visibility of Striker needs, improving the odds to solve those challenges. Leveraging this process funds projects that would otherwise not receive resources through standard channels,” remarked Dawn. “This is a great way to advertise Air Force Global Strike Command’s needs and capitalize on the amazing American commercial technology marketspace.”